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International Women's Day

In this list you'll find books, old and new, from Australia and beyond that women have written to vaporise asssumptions and electrofly our will to act. Books that help us become better humans. There's no formula to these books; some are novels, others short stories, there are essays and there are memoirs. Each one has the incendiary quality that begs to be shared, talked about and celebrated.

Here they are - 16 books from Women that have exploded our world.

#1: The First Bad Man

by Miranda July

"Miranda July’s brain may or may not be human but it’s an invaluable gift to the human race." - Ben @ A&R

Cheryl is a tightly wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other peoples' babies.

Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women's self-defence nonprofit organisation where she works... more

#2: Damned Whores and God's Police

by Anne Summers

Sexual harassment, domestic violence and date rape had not been named, although they certainly existed, when Damned Whores and God’s Police was first published in 1975.

That was before the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 and before large numbers of women became visible in employment, in politics and elsewhere across society.

It’s hard to imagine an Australia where these abuses were not yet fully understood as obstacles to women’s equality, yet that was Australia in 1975... more

#3: The Secret Lives of Men

by Georgia Blain

In this haunting collection of short stories, Georgia Blain explores human nature in all its richness: our motivations, our desires and our shortcomings.

The men in these tales frequently linger at the edges - their longings and failures exerting a subterranean pull on the women in their lives.

A woman revisits her hometown and learns a long-held secret about her first boyfriend, a man's devotion to his dog ultimately forces him to confront his true hopes and fears, and, in one story, we watch as a woman makes a snap decision about her life's future direction, with devastating consequences for her family... more

#4: Bad Feminist

by Roxane Gay

I am failing as a woman.
I am failing as a feminist.
To freely accept the feminist label would not be fair to good feminists.
If I am, indeed, a feminist, I am a rather bad one.
I am a mess of contradictions.

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of colour while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today... more

#5: Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"

by Lena Dunham

'NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL is hilarious, artful, and staggeringly intimate; I read it shivering with recognition' - Miranda July.

For readers of Nora Ephron, Tina Fey, and David Sedaris, this hilarious, poignant, and extremely frank collection of personal essays confirms Lena Dunham - the acclaimed creator, producer, and star of HBO's GIRLS - as one of the brightest and most original writers working today... more

#6: Foreign Soil

by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Literary Fiction Of The Year,  ABIA Awards 2015
Debut Fiction, Indie Book Awards 2015
Victorian Premier's Unpublished Manuscript Award 2013 

In Melbourne's western suburbs, in a dilapidated block of flats overhanging the rattling Footscray train lines, a young black mother is working on a collection of stories. Inside its covers, a desperate asylum seeker is pacing the hallways of Sydney's notorious Villawood detention centre, a seven-year-old Sudanese boy has found solace in a patchwork bike, an enraged black militant is on the warpath through the rebel squats of 1960s Brixton, a Mississippi housewife decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her son from small-town ignorance, a young woman leaves rural Jamaica in search of her destiny, and a Sydney schoolgirl loses her way... more

#7: Moranifesto

by Caitlin Moran

From the bestselling author of How To be a Woman

This is Caitlin's engaging and amusing rallying call for our times. Combining the best of her recent columns with lots of new writing unique to this book, Caitlin deals with topics as pressing and diverse as 1980s swearing, benefits, boarding schools, and why the internet is like a drunken toddler.

And whilst never afraid to address the big issues of the day - such as Benedict Cumberbatch and duffel coats - Caitlin also makes a passionate effort to understand our 21st century society and presents us with her Moranifesto for making the world a better place... more

#8: The Female Eunuch

by Germaine Greer

A landmark in the history of the women's movement.

"Status ought not to be measured by a woman's ability to attract and snare a man."

Drawing liberally from history, literature and popular culture, past and present, Germaine Greer's searing examination of women's oppression is at once an important social commentary and a passionately argued masterpiece of polemic. Probably the most famous, most widely read book on feminism ever... more

#9: The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

'Compulsively readable' - Daily Telegraph

In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She has only one function: to breed.

If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs... more

#10: The Women's Pages

by Debra Adelaide

'Emily Bronte had written this novel especially for her. For her benefit she had sat alone in her narrow bed in the parsonage, her lap desk on her knees, death all around her with that graveyard right next door, the cold wind from the moors behind rattling the windows... But who had Dove written her story for?'

The Women's Pages is about the choices and compromises women make, about their griefs and losses, and about the cold aching spaces that are left when they disappear from the story... more

#11: Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

by Carrie Brownstein

Featured in our Best Books of 2015
Featured in our collection of Non-Fiction Staff Picks

Before Carrie Brownstein became a music icon, she was a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest just as it was becoming the setting for one of the most important movements in rock history.

This book is an intimate and revealing narrative of her escape from a turbulent family life into a world where music was the means toward self-invention, community, and rescue... more

#12: The Wife Drought

by Annabel Crabb

'I need a wife' It's a common joke among women juggling work and family. But it's not actually a joke.

Having a spouse who takes care of things at home is a Godsend on the domestic front. It's a potent economic asset on the work front. And it's an advantage enjoyed even in our modern society by vastly more men than women. Working women are in an advanced, sustained, and chronically under-reported state of wife drought, and there is no sign of rain... more

#13: M Train

by Patti Smith

M Train begins in the tiny Greenwich Village cafe where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook.

Through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, and across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations, we travel to Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico; to a meeting of an Arctic explorer's society in Berlin; to a ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York's Far Rockaway that Smith acquires just before Hurricane Sandy hits; and to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud and Mishima. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer's craft and on artistic creation... more

#14: The Natural Way of Things

by Charlotte Wood

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of nowhere.

She hears her own thick voice deep inside her ears when she says, 'I need to know where I am.'

The man stands there, tall and narrow, hand still on the doorknob, surprised.

He says, almost in sympathy, 'Oh, sweetie. You need to know what you are... more

#15: Middlemarch

by George Eliot

George Eliot's masterpiece, groundbreaking in its psychological insight into powerful clashes of obligation and desire.

Her most ambitious novel is a masterly evocation of diverse lives and changing fortunes in a provincial English community prior to the Reform Bill of 1832. Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfilment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; the charming but tactless Dr Lydgate, whose marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamund and pioneering medical methods threaten to undermine his career; passionate, idealistic and penniless artist Will Ladislaw; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his past... more

#16: The Fictional Woman

by Tara Moss

The no.1 bestselling non-fiction hit! Tara Moss's first work of non-fiction - a fascinating mix of memoir and social comment - is sparking conversation all over the country.

What are your fictions?
Tara Moss has worn many labels in her time, including 'author', 'model', 'gold-digger', 'commentator', 'inspiration', 'dumb blonde', 'feminist' and 'mother', among many others.

In this book, she blends memoir and social analysis to examine the common fictions about women. She traces key moments in her life - from small-town tomboy in Canada, to international fashion model in the 90s, to bestselling author taking a polygraph test in 2002 to prove she writes her own work... more